Sometimes it makes one wonder how such similar ingredients can create such different results. Take Failure for example. You get the mourning vocals, the discordant wails of guitar feedback, the Steve Albini production -- yes, just about everything that fits the Nirvana template. Yet Failure seem to miss the point. Because even here on the band's third album out of the fire, Fantastic Planet is ripe with idolized ingredients but low on original flavor. One aspect that seems to be in the band's favor this time around is the choice to self-produce. While not exceptional, their ear towards the atmospherics (check out the Downward Spiral-like "Daylight" or interludes like "Segue 3") help create an effort that is more skilled than your average Kurt Cobain-worshiper. Another strong sign is that this album seems more guided by Greg Edwards' swaying basslines than most bands' reliance on angry guitars. However, these high marks can't hide the normally weak songwriting. The lyrics go from quoting Russian films to clumsy metaphors about carpet stores ("Go ahead roll me up in your detachment/I'm here to decorate your fear for awhile") while the oafish musical structures leave little to the imagination. One crucial ingredient that might be missing is a talent for hooks. Because despite everything else -- and regardless of the true internal antipathy towards himself and his world -- Cobain still had an undeniable skill for crafting songs in the middle of all the "noise." An album like Fantastic Planet, on the other hand, shows how a different band can attempt to create the same "pained" dish, yet continue to burn themselves with almost every style-over-substance track. Failure might get there someday. It's just that until that day arrives, we are only left with albums that hint at a talent hiding behind another band's personality.
Fantastic Planet Review
by Dean Carlson